Friday, May 30, 2008

Because I actually have a life this weekend...

You should check out Brian Regan. He's so amazing. Try this one and this one and this one. And this one too. Oh okay, and especially this one. Now go find your own. Bet the renovation guys looove listening to this through my door and hearing me try not to giggle.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Trouble with Love Is

Not that we're talking about my love life, dear Reader. Only once in the past six months have I let myself spill anything relating to that and was subsequently ridiculed by dear friend A. So now I'd blush to think of doing such a thing again - at least for another six months.

No, I am talking about the trouble with love in movies. Have you ever spent time thinking about the relationships in movies - whether or not they're realistic or well supported or even written well? What about when you're writing a relationship - ever realized how incredibly difficult it is to do, especially without resorting to the stock montage of dinner-movie-walk on the beach? I was thinking about how it pops up in my writing, and here's what I realized:

Nobody ever falls in love before the midpoint in any of my feature length specs. In 2 of my specs, they've known/had feelings for the person since before the movie started, in 1 nobody falls in love, and in The 4:05, the only spec where characters first meet and then fall in love, it's not until the very end of the movie. It's also incredibly difficult to establish why two people are in love. I don't think we can blame that on writing, necessarily; I think that's more the fault of love. I'm trying to write a webseries, and in the first five minute episode I have to establish the history of a long and loving relationship between two characters who are currently going through a rough patch. That's tough. What sort of three minute scene can you write to show the history of trust and care between two people? Love is difficult stuff to write. Especially in the constraints of two hours.

But let's reflect on the plethora of romantic movies out there.

Catch and Release - This movie didn't get great reviews. However, I was impressed with the writing - because for some odd, inexplicable reason, it had me thinking that Timothy Olyphant was ultimately better for Jennifer Garner than Sam Jaeger was. Frankly, I should have been outraged that she didn't fall for Jaeger. He had been secretly in love with her all along and he was a much sweeter guy than Olyphant. And as a friend pointed out, there wasn't much support for a real love developing between Olyphant and Garner. I'm not saying there wasn't a relationship there, but there definitely needed to be more of a friendship.

Walk the Line - Brilliant. Why? My guess is because 1. it spanned several years and loads of heartbreak for both characters but 2. more importantly, the relationship between June and John went outside of mushy love feelings to grace, forgiveness, caring, and real devotion.

27 Dresses - Another cute movie. But even though Marsden helped Heigl with problems outside of their tense relationship, it just didn't ring "great true love" to me. So he pointed out that she had some major wedding issues and gave her a Blackberry. I don't know, maybe I just disliked the advice he gave after the rehearsal dinner and that tainted the entire thing for me.

Atonement - Look, I loved Atonement. It was beautiful and depressing and James McAvoy would definitely be able to get any woman to fall in love with him. But, I'm sorry, when was it that he and Knightley fell in love? Was it when they were twelve and still talking? Or at college when she avoided him like the plague? And her show of devotion and faith in him was truly moving - though I kept wondering why she had such faith in him. If it was because she loved him, well, I could have used a little more convincing on that.

Dan in Real Life - Cute movie, but I do not remember the last time I got hit on by a random stranger, felt comfortable enough to spend a life-sharing hour over tea with him, then been so tormented by that unfinished conversation that - even though we were under the eye of his entire family and therefore had to play distance games the entire time - I had to abandon my current relationship and run away.

Definitely Maybe - I liked this one, because I felt like there were very many real aspects of relationships there. Or maybe it was more about how relationships fall apart than how they stay together. I'm not saying it didn't have its quirky moments, but I think the relationship between Reynolds and Fisher had a very honest quality - people who care about each other for years, who are invested in each others' lives, who make mistakes, hold on, and finally get forgiven.

Garden State - This should scream disaster movie for me. At the end Zach Braff tells Natalie Portman, "You've changed my life and I've only known you four days." That doesn't happen in real life, are you kidding me? When was the last time your life was changed by someone you met four days ago? However, anyone who knows me knows this is my favourite movie in the world. While I'm generally skeptical about any movies where the characters have just met before falling in love, there are some that work. In Garden State, like in Trust last night, the characters who fell in love were looking for life change. I think that makes a life changing relationship a heck of a lot more believable, because there's an openness and honesty that comes when a person is looking for life change. The second reason why Garden State works is that, in those four days, Braff and Portman actually talk. About a lot of things, about their views on life, about their pasts and how it's screwed them up, about their present. If you're looking for life change, and you're going to be honest, and you find someone who is willing to be just as honest with you and care about you, you've totally sold me on their relationship.

Pushing Daisies - This is a great example (albeit being TV), because Chuck and Ned can't touch each other. There goes the storyteller's easiest method of expressing love.

An Officer and a Gentleman - I'm not going to analyze this one. I just like it.

Why worry about this so much? Why draw up theories about the relationships in your own writing and do case studies on produced movies? Why spend so much time on this?

Because you can't just expect that you can just slap the romance label on your movie and the audience will buy it. If you want me to believe two characters are in love, you've got to sell it to me. You can't just write the "falling in love montage" or stick in a little cutesy joke when they're snuggling or write that scene where the female protagonist finally breaks her emotional barriers down for the boy while Benny and the Jets is playing in the background. How do you express in a three minute scene the commitment, passion, history, devotion, and respect between two people? How do you take something that's often so very internal, especially the moment when you realize you love someone, and put that on the screen to be seen clearly and without question? There are a lot of standard methods, a date, a kiss, a conversation. But those alone don't demonstrate love. Maybe that the characters are having fun or that sparks are flying or they're finding each other trustworthy, but so often those motifs that we commonly think of as expressing love can express something else, feelings or emotions that can belong to just plain fun or happiness or companionship. Maybe we need to stop relying on motifs that can express something lower than romance to support the characters' love.

Maybe the problem is that we don't know what love is. I was looking for something to watch, and I stopped on "Platinum Weddings" for a few minutes, because it's wedding season here at home for the next year. The featured couple was talking about their relationship, and the girl said, "I love him because he makes me happy. Whether it's getting me ice cream or playing tennis, he always puts a smile on my face." I felt a little frightened for this girl. Because what happens when he no longer makes her happy, either because he doesn't want to or because she's gotten bored of it? That's not love.

Maybe it's not a problem of story telling. Maybe it's a problem of misdiagnosis.

Typically I don't like movies and music from the 80s...

Luckily, "Trust" was released in 1990. On the recommendation of my screenwriting professor, I watched it tonight. It was cute - I really liked it (and that's all the review you will get from me). I was reminded of "Say Anything" (1989!) during it - another great movie. I think because they are both super dramatic love stories about teenagers. If you think about "Juno," it took the whole movie for her to admit that she liked Bleeker. Of course, that's wasn't what the movie was about, really. But early in Act II in "Trust," Maria and Matt are defining love. In "Say Anything," John Cusack is letting nothing get in the way of him and his girl. There's just a level of beautiful and yet unbelievable amount of dedication in the romances of late 80s, early 90s teen movies. What are our teen romances now? Transformers and The Date Movie.

"I respect and admire you."
"Isn't that love?"
"No, that's respect and admiration."

- Trust

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

*Obligatory Post of Crisis*

Apparently, it only takes twenty minutes with me out of sight for my brother to forget that I'm home.

Filmmaking Theory/Practicals: I was watching a movie the other week - I don't remember which movie at all. Maybe The Royal Tenenbaums? There was a camera movement in the scene, from the face of the character, tilting down to something he held in his hand. And as the camera was tilting down, I thought, My gosh, what's in his hand?! (It was, by the way, not something of threatening importance.) The same information could have been conveyed through a cut from the character's face to the his hand. However, the dramatic tension would have been completely lost - or never existed. There's a lot of art in filmmaking with fewer cuts.

When we made "Join This Group?" one of the lovely things was the lack of camera movement - the majority of the footage was stationary camera interviews. There the challenge was simply making the short. But that style of camera set up was not especially creative. However, it fit the style of the short. There's nothing wrong with close ups and action-reaction shots, but I think a lot of time these are default camera setups. When story-boarding, there should be a lot of thought about why the shot is being used, what is included and excluded from the frame, the motivation for movement, artistry, etc. etc.

I was watching Sex and the City tonight (sigh, I opted out of a more artistic movie for it, but I had to multitask and just needed background TV - though I am getting really tired of all the commercials for the movie), and Mr. Big kept calling Carrie 'kid.' I almost snapped at the TV, I'm not sure how she made it through a whole series being called 'kid.'

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All I Need

Here it comes it's all blowing in tonight
I woke up this morning to a blood red sky
They're burning on the bridge turning off the lights
We're on the run I can see it in your eyes
If nothing is safe then I don't understand
You call me your boy but I'm trying to be the man
One more day and it's all slipping with the sand
You touch my lips and grab the back of my hand
The back of my hand

Guess we both know we're in over our heads
We got nowhere to go and no home that's left
The water is rising on a river turning red
It all might be OK or we might be dead
If everything we've got is slipping away
I meant what I said when I said until my dying day
I'm holding on to you, holding on to me
Maybe it's all gone black but you're all I see
You're all I see

The walls are shaking, I hear them sound the alarm
Glass is breaking so don't let go of my arm
Grab your bags and a picture of where we met
All that we'll leave behind and all that's left
If everything we've got is blowing away
We've got a rock and a rock till our dying day
I'm holding on to you, holding on to me
Maybe it's all we got but it's all I need
You're all I need

And if all we've got, is what no one can break,
I know I love you, if that's all we can take,
the tears are coming down, they're mixing with the rain,
I know I love you, if that's all we can take.

A pool is running for miles on the concrete ground
We're eight feet deep and the rain is still coming down
The TV's playing it all out of town
We're grabbing at the fray for something that won't drown

- Mat Kearney

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ms. Franklin knows it

Isn't it weird how medical issues work? You know how in old movies they'd always talk about how they were going to the Rivera "for my health"? Always seemed a little cheesy, didn't it? Well, perhaps the East Coast rivera is good for my health, because I just had an issue drop from the looming "hey, I wonder if this is going to affect my future" to "meh, I should get a doctor's opinion on that one day." It's a nice relief (as opposed to an 'un-nice relief'??).

I'm exhausted. I can't concentrate well enough to write the thrilling and enlightening post on producing I was planning, so we're going to talk about something else instead. Ok, Reader? (If it's not, I don't care, you can just exit click out of here). I refer heavily to Zach Helm's Creative Screenwriting podcast, so you might want to listen to that.

Writers don't get enough respect. I know we bemoan this fact a lot, but there's a problem in the way that most writers approach this issue. The treatment of writers, the firing off of projects, the rewriting of others' scripts, the sending of hams as apologies, has created a sort of "expendable" label for writers. The problem is this - that we've started accepting this label, caving to the system - it makes writers cynical. Don't believe me? How many times have you heard writers tell other writers that Hollywood's going to change their script until its not the author's story anymore? I would say the biggest problem is not the Hollywood system - it's the writers that are giving in to it.

Writers do not demand enough respect for themselves. I think we're afraid to risk it, to demand certain terms. I think we're so desperate for success sometimes that we'll blind ourselves to the possibilities, hope that we'll be treated with respect, or at the very least now we've got an option or a greenlight, no matter what the story really is about now. Zach Helm wrote a personal manifesto. He wrote it after he realize he was making a career in a way that he didn't want a career. He was being fired from his own scripts, getting assignments on other's material, writing stories that weren't really in his vein. He could have kept going. Speilberg asked him to write a script. He could have written for Speilberg. In the end, choosing the integrity of the project, Helm was honest with Speilberg about his limitations with the project. Part of this just stems from what seems to be an incredible honesty Helm seems to have with his work. Part of this is just Helm's sense of respect. At this point, he had been working as a screenwriter for about seven years - without having a script actually produced. When he finished his manifesto, he had decided on a "group of rules": no bidding wars, no rewriting others' scripts, no assignments, he would sell only to those people he respected as filmmakers, and maybe most importantly, he requires involvement in the development of the script. He gets a voice in casting, and if they decide the script needs a new perspective, Helm gets to suggest the new writer. When he's talking at the interview about his manifesto, he says that he realized he no longer wanted the pressure of his script production to be on the studios and the stars, "I wanted the onus to be on me." That demands a level of respect for yourself, your craft, and your story.

I don't know - why don't writers do this? Why do we grudgingly accept Hollywood's role for us? Some might argue that it's necessary to get your foot in the door. I'm not arguing that you should be a jerk to the execs you want to greenlight your project or that you claim there are no notes that could possibly improve your story. My feeling is, if you write a great script, you have an obligation to yourself to respect that work you've done. And there's no reason why you should slowly light every page on fire because a company may not give you an option if you don't. It's okay to be firm about your story. If it's really that good of a script, the execs are going to want it. If they respect your story, how are you going to let them getting away without respecting you as well? No one's going to give us any more respect if we don't start acting like we deserve it.

This is sorta silly, but I have one example of how to respect your craft. I'm shy about showing friends my work. I think it used to be because I was (and yes, still am sometimes) insecure in my writing and am unsure how I'd react to negative feedback. However, my attitude's changing a little. When I give a friend some of my work, their level of respect for my work tells me a little bit about their understanding of me. I'm not saying that they need to love it or say that it's great or anything. But you know how when you're with a friend and they're excited about something or something huge is happening in their life, you want to know about it - even if you're not really interested in politics or engineering or agriculture? A friend's interest reflects respect. And in my closest friends, I really hope for people who can understand my passion for writing and respect that. And when I walk into a pitch meeting or an option meeting, I hope that these people who are invested in the business of storytelling will also understand my passion for my writing and respect that. If they don't, then they never should have called that meeting in the first place, right?

Maybe it would have been easier to write about producing after all. I'm just a little tired of all the cynicism that writers carry around from their expendable label in Hollywood. I think we just spent a few months showing how wrong that label is.

And my friend that I went wedding dress shopping with? She bought her dress tonight. It's beautiful. The maid of honor and I had a wonderful time oohing and aahing over the various dresses. We may also have snuck pictures of us wearing bridal tiaras.

Going to the chapel

Tonight I'm going wedding dress shopping with a friend. I'm so excited!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I've been drinking tea and watching British TV.

If this was the olden times, when people picked wives based on their skills and knowledge, my marketability would have soared this past week. I have learned three new skills - wall paper removal, spackling, and driving (okay, that would have definitely counted against me before). And I've been seriously practicing my baking skills.

And I started writing again.

So what, that lasted like a week and a half? I mean, I think that it's good to have a balanced mindset - so often writers are pressured to write write WRITE all the time, productivity is king, you need to always always always be working on a project (or two) in some way shape or form. And if this is to be your career, then yes, you need to work. But when the pressure starts to work against your creativity and your productivity and your fun (and your mental health), then you might want to consider a little break. And I had just finished a spec for class this past semester, so I can justify it in my mind. Besides, nothing makes you want to do something so much as not doing it. Or whatever.

So here are the projects. I've made my first few "official" notes for Current Draft, a children's spec. Right now I have more of a premise than a plot, more of a situation than a story, so I'm going to keep it percolating. I don't really want to do too much prewriting for it, though. I like exploring while I write. The other project I'm working on is a webseries. I outlined a couple sentences or so for twelve five-minute episodes before I took my break. I wrote the pilot today. It needs a lot of work for five pages, but I was still happy to have written actual pages for the first time in weeks. I also spent some time thinking about the feasibility of this project. A friend and I were talking about a webseries for next year. And to be honest, that one seemed a lot more infeasible, because we were talking several directors, rotating crew positions, having to make sure a lot of people coordinated in a way people don't coordinate if they're not getting paid. I really liked that webseries idea, though, so maybe we'll just make it a smaller production. So yes, that would be two series I want to produce this upcoming year. I'm not exactly daunted yet. I haven't set my heart on these series yet, but when I decide I want to do them - well, when I want something, it gets done.

Producing. I want to talk about producing later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

10 Things To Do When You're Not Writing...

...but you still want to learn.

1. Read. Read books on writing. I've read Mamet's 3 Uses of the Knife, and while I disagreed with about half of what I understood, it got me thinking. Read stories that inspire you. Today I was reminded of Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life," a Nebula short story winner. That story is brilliant - it gets a visceral emotional response out of you - I love it so much I once read it aloud to a friend. When you hear a story that's inspiring, it makes you want to share inspiration with someone else.

2. Review. Join Zoetrope or Triggerstreet. In the past two weeks I've read five features and one hour TV spec and written subsequent reviews. As you notice what works and what doesn't, you start to make mental notes for your own scripts. Keep a copy of all your reviews. Read all sorts of different genres - I just read a thriller and found out a know a whole lot more about that genre than I thought I knew. The trick here is to retain and implement what you apparently subconsciously know about other people's scripts into your own writing.

3. Network. There was actually a discussion about this going on over at Wordplayer last week. You don't want to just network - you want to actually make friends in the industry. It's more fun. So speak up on a couple of forums. Create a website, a blog, or go "old school" with MySpace. Comment on your favourite blogs and check out the other people who comment too. You might run across another great blog.

4. Watch movies. See above points. Pretty simple.

5. Listen to podcasts. Creative Screenwriting has an awesome collection of interviews with screenwriters and other filmmakers. More lessons to learn and advice to soak up. I think the most meaningful ones I've listened to are the ones with Zach Helm and Diablo Cody. Helm makes a great point about writing a personal manifesto, especially in the face of the disrespect writers get in the industry (and not writing when you don't want to). When Diablo talks about her breaking in experience, she mentions how great it was that she didn't know any of the "screenwriting rules" (and about not writing when you don't want to). I think it's really easy to get into a certain "struggling, desperate writer" mindset. Good interviews with professional writers helps put things in perspective again.

...and therefore have lots of time.

6. Learn how to drive. I went driving legally for the first time the other day. I rocked it out - in the empty parking lot at the back of the mall.

7. Redecorate your room. Tomorrow we strip off the wall paper and paint. Did you know Ralph Lauren has paint? For all those New England yuppies for who their Ralph Lauren polos and SUVs are not enough. My dad and I spent several minutes trying to figure out how RL's special painting techniques worked. I watched the little instructional video twice, then decided it wasn't worth it for this room. Maybe for my first ocean-view one bedroom apartment in LA.

8. Be thrilled Indiana Jones is getting pretty good reviews from the important places.

9. Bake. Last week I warmed up with chocolate chip cookies. Today I whipped up a chocolate cake with mint frosting and a melted chocolate layer on top of that. Later this week I think I'm going to try sugar cookies with a chocolate raspberry drizzle (we have chocolate raspberry chips, so it's sorta cheating), and then I'm going to master German chocolate cake.

...and finally

10. Get over it and get back to writing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

This is also not really country.

My friends played this song for me. I liked it so much, I am passing it along to you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Horror vacui

I went to the beach Thursday. I have a rare problem, Reader. I don't understand how to sun bathe. After we got back from our little foray (by the by, the beaches are lovely this time of year. Empty because it's not yet summer but still warm enough to enjoy), I stepped into the bathroom and was surprised to see that one side of my face was more burnt than the other. A couple of years ago (shows how often I go to the beach, huh), I accidentally tanned one arm more than the other. But it's worse when it's your face that's uneven - oh the wonders of make up.

I've been pretty busy the past week, which is a little strange considering that I have nothing to do. I've decided that I'm going to redecorate my room. When we moved into this house a year and a half ago I just sort of threw my stuff into my room and left it there. My drawers are full of clothes I never wear and my bookshelf holds CDs and books I haven't touched since high school. And the wall paper in here - yuck. I mean, I may not spend a lot of time here at my parents' house, but there's no reason why I need to be living out of a duffle bag in the dining room since my closet of a room only has space for the clothes I never wear. Besides, it will give me something to do, and whenever my parents decide to sell this house, potential buyers need to see how this space can actually be utilized as more than just a walk in closet.

Iron Man - So I saw this movie last night. I really liked it. It was entertaining, I liked the casting, good effects. I think their decision to start the movie where they did was interesting; it was the only time they shifted the timeline, and it was obviously done to start the story off with an intense action sequence. I think it also helped make Tony Stark likeable. Because, let's face it, in the first act he's sorta a jerk. He ignores appointments, disregards his friends, and is superficial. But in those first few minutes with the soldiers, he jokes around with them, and the audience can see that his edge isn't necessarily threatening or mean. I thought it was very well written. Perhaps the best superhero movie since Batman Begins, no?

It was my worst theatre experience in a while, though. At least half of the near full theatre (it's been a long time since I've been in a theatre that full, actually) were middle school aged kids who would not be quiet. I'm really surprised the people sitting around them didn't complain. Also, I think we need to make a new rule about theatre etiquette. No cell phone use - whatsoever. No matter if it's on silent or you're just texting or whatever - how hooked up are we that we can't just leave them in our pockets for a couple of hours. Heaven forbid someone not be able to get ahold of us, like we might have a life or something. It's just so distracting when someone in your row or in the one in front of you whips out their phone and this insanely bright spot of light pops up on the corner of your vision. When we went to go see Jumper there were four people sitting in front of this, and three of them were constantly pulling out their phones. I'm sorry that I'm old fashioned.

Actually I'm not, really.

It's been almost a week since I said I wasn't going to write without feeling passionate about a story. A couple of days after that, I got a great idea for a story. I haven't written anything down yet, but I summarized it for a few of my friends and have been thinking about it. I think I might start taking down notes this week. I like it enough to deem it my next Current Draft. The other idea I'm playing with is a concept for a webseries that I plagiarized from myself. I'm hoping to shoot a webseries next year at uni. It's just up in the air still if it'll be my self plagiarized series that I'll write and direct or if it'll be a series in collaboration with others also writing and directing. I'd love to do both, but we've only go so much time.

We're working on the Lives Agape website. My computer hacker (in the best way) brother is helping me out, because if it's not prefabricated for me, I'm pretty useless with the internet. I'll let everyone know once it's up and running and "Join This Group?" has premiered world wide.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This is when I rambled.

Reader, I had a very productive day. I did three loads of laundry, got my permit (yes, I'm a little old for that. It's a long boring story - just of me never being bothered to learn how to drive), baked a batch of cookies, and cleaned up the kitchen after dinner (I haven't seen a kitchen that bad since I was au pairing in England).

Since then, I've been highly entertained by some hacker on the Zoetrope boards posting incessant nonsense.

But seriously. Let's talk about real stuff.

I know, I'm sorry. I'm a sell out. But you have to understand - even though we have cable at home, the best thing on TV late at night is Sex and the City - the clean version, by the way. I don't watch this anywhere else, really, but at home I get an hour and a half straight. And, well, I sorta start to look forward to it. And then I read an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker in New York, and she seemed like such a nice person and a real New Yorker. So yes! I've gotten suckered into (not so) secretly wanting to see this movie.

Pushing Daisies - sadly I couldn't find the pilot episode but I got ahold of the second. If you haven't seen this show, you really need to go to asap. This show is funny, inventive, and it's beautifully shot. And Ned - he's such a sweetheart! Jim's got some really competition for dreamiest make-believe boy.

But seriously. I regret not keeping up with this show from the start. And keeping with a Lee Pace theme...

I am so excited for this movie. It hasn't gotten the best reviews, and I'm not sure when I'll get to see it because it's only got a limited US release right now. But it looks stunning. Check the trailer out here.

So remember how on Sunday I said I wasn't writing screenplays until I had an idea that I was positively itching to write, something that excited me and made me happy? Well, I've got this idea. It's not like anything I've done before - no, I'm putting aside the real life melodramas for a children's fantasy story. I got the premise the day I finally got a key to our house, and since then it's been slowly percolating (I think it has something to do with The Fall - I keep seeing that girl as one of the characters). I haven't started writing yet, though I might start making some notes. The lesson I'm learning right now - don't rush, don't rush, don't rush.

When film first started, people argued over what it's purpose was - was it to play with realism in the ways only film could (formalism) or was it to document realism in the way only film could (realism - shocker, right?). I heard things got pretty heated in that debate - this was the beginning of a new art form after all. I've thought about which camp I'd belong to - I think it's very important for filmmakers to know what they think the purpose of film is - not that you can't play in both, but where do you go at the end of the day? I can't make up my mind - because I love stories about people in real life going through real difficulties and handling them in real ways - but I love formalism. Méliès "Trip to the Moon" - and I don't even like silent cinema! That's why I loved Stardust, even if it's not the most graceful story every told, and why I am fascinated by The Fall, even though I've heard it lacks a lot in the story department. The visual spectacle of fantasy and science fiction and epics spark my own imagination. But sometimes I'm afraid I don't have enough imagination to create those sorts of stories. The inventiveness and magic that I love so much in these stories also intimidates me. But that's the challenge, isn't it? I've always liked a challenge.

And really, I know which "camp" I belong to. The one that tells real stories about real people in imaginative fantastic settings. I'm just still getting my creative courage to go there.

Old School

think i'll wait for the tide
seems it's all i can do right now
there must be a reason
i've run aground

i'll wait for the waves
to come
by the moon and the tide
like a man and his bride
i will wait
on you, Lord
and we will run so far from here

think i'll lie in the sun for awhile
maybe inside out
i've been leaving messages for you
i'm sure it will all work out

and i know the waves
will come
by the moon and the tide
like a man and his bride
i will wait
on you Lord
and we will run so far from here
to your

safety in the storm
there is courage for the simple man
to the holders of secrets and scars
learning to stand with reaching arms
we'll wait till the very last
no matter what will be
you're always good
always good
to me

- "the tide" by newboys

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Caesar si viveret, ad remum dareris

Dear Reader. Dear, dear Reader. Let's talk.

First of all, I don't know what's made you so endearing to me all of a sudden. I must be getting sentimental in my old age. And speaking of you dear readers, it's quite alright to pipe up and say something once in a while. I do know people visit this site, oddly enough, you're not slipping that by me, and sometimes I lie awake in my bed at night and wonder why the heck someone from - is that Slovakia? - would find anything of interest here. And who the heck is still in my uni town at this time of the year? I'm not being a stalker, I swear, or a creeper who does like awake thinking about her blog (I already wrote what I lay awake thinking about), I just feel a little left out by all those bloggers who know how to figure out what people are truly Googling when they stumble across their blog.

But seriously - does anyone know how to find that out?

Bullet point number two - I told you I would write about how my creative endeavors (that's totally my new favourite word for some reason. I think it's because I keep using it in my Zoetrope reviews) have been going. Well here it goes:

I haven't written anything.

Ok, so maybe that's not *entirely* true. I picked three feature ideas I think have the strongest potential. I wrote a few lines about each of the main characters, maybe a little plot summary. I nailed a premise for a webseries and wrote out one to two sentence plot summaries for twelve episodes.

But any real writing?

...does writing directions count?

But I protest - this does not mean that I have been uproductive. Not at all, dear - anonymous lurker. I say no! Here it is what I have been doing instead, just over the past week:

- I have made this blog prettier. And for you, reader, I have tried to add some more useful links, blogs, and sites. ... Ok, at the very least, they're better organized.

- I watched Rules of the Game, Once, Stardust, Atonement, Purple Rose of Cairo, and The Searchers. That's six films. Seven if you count the director's commentary I watched of Walk the Line. That's more than I've probably been awake for over the past academic year (outside of class, of course, professors!).

- I cracked and got a MySpace account because some day, some how, in some weird way I might use it for networking. And I've been collaborating with my web designer for the Lives Agape page, hoping that will be running in a few days and "Join This Group?" will be up for the world to see.

- I started participating in two writer's communities: Wordplayer, which I fade in and out of, and Zoetrope, which I'm giving a third attempt, this time whole-heartedly. And it's working because in addition

- I read and reviewed four scripts. To get reviews for a script in Zoetrope, you first have to pay your dues. This was actually a really good experience, though I did all four of them in about four days, which was pretty draining. Let's just say my computer screen and I are still on delicate terms.

- I actively pursued reviews for The 4:05. It's in the hands of three friends/mentors that I know personally as well as being live over at Zoetrope.

- I read David Mamet's book 3 Uses of the Knife. ... I'm sorry, MM, I really am. I know how much you love him, but - he just doesn't cut it for me.

- I listened to threef Creative Screenwriting's Q&A podcasts on Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Juno, and Waitress. These were incredible and inspiring, and I heartily recommend them. Go to iTunes to get them - don't look for them through that link. That page looks a little outdated to me, but I don't know how to link to iTunes.

So, no, I have not written a real word, but I dare you to call me unproductive. I have learned a lot over the past week.

But still, I felt guilty about not really writing. I mean, I have all this time. I'm not going to be able to write at camp again this year, and when it comes to being back at uni, if I'm honest, I typically put writing second to life in any shape or form. Isn't this a waste? Shouldn't I be pushing forward with something? Haven't the Greats told us that we need to write every day? What good are all the lessons I'm learning if I'm not actively applying them in my writing life?

But something clicked in all those lessons. It came through Zach Helm (Stranger than Fictions, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium) and Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer's Body). And that was this. When asked about their writing schedules and writer's block, they said, honestly and point blank -

If they don't feel like writing, they won't.

I think hearing it twice, from writers who have crafted incredible movies, made it okay for me to face the frustration and lack of motivation and dissatisfaction and the slight panic that comes from not wanting to write. Maybe it's just an excuse. Maybe it shows a lack of will power in me. Maybe it shows a lack of devotion in me. I know there will be people shaking their heads at me. For some people, this is not an "okay" action to take right now. But I think that I'm okay with that. Because you know what? Writing is supposed to be a joy. Sure, it's a heck of a lot of hard work, and it's not always pleasant, but the fact that I have a story that I'm passionate about and that I love - that's supposed to bring me joy. And I don't feel that right now about any of my projects. There's potential there - but there's not any joy yet.

So I'm not going to write. I don't know for how long. Long enough for me to find the story that I want to write. And I don't mean that I'm not going to write at all - now that's bordering on crazy talk. I'm most definitely going to blog (maybe more than usual, actually), because I'm still going to be reading books and listening to podcasts and watching lots of movies, and I want to write about those lessons that I'm learning there. I'm still going to read scripts at Zoetrope and write reviews.

And I think I'm going to take some time to do some personal writing, handwriting, journaling. Because I think the story that I want to tell next - I don't think it's going to come from outside of me. It's inside, I'm sure, sometimes I think I can hear it. So that's where I need to go.

It sounds like it might be a novel.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Who *isn't* in the mood for a little depression?

Dear Reader. Dear, dear Reader.

Do you remember, dear Reader, me mentioning how going to the movies turned into an awfully trying event for me this past semester for some odd reason - I'd tear up at the silliest of movies (27 Dresses and PS I Love You - heck, I probably would have sniffled at The Purple Rose of Cairo tonight if I had been paying full attention). I'm proud to say, though, that not once did I actually cry at these films. My track record was surprisingly water free.

However, last night I watched Atonement... to my demise.

I cried, Reader. Not until the very end, but there were tears - yes, more than one. How terribly depressing that movie was. So beautiful but so tragic. So hopeful and yet... not. Oh, I definitely recommend it, no doubt about it.

Just make sure you watch it with people you're comfortable crying with.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Oh my poor heart.

Oh, Lost. Lost, Lost, Lost. Why do you torment my heart so? You make characters I love so unhappy, you make perfectly lovely people creepy, and now you're playing with the timeline. I just - I'm getting too involved! Why can't we all just get along? I just feel like we need to have a happy episode interlude right about now.

Apparently - I didn't realize this during the school year, really - but all my favourite shows come on on Thursdays. I had to catch up with last week's Lost, make sure I watched Scrubs because Zach Braff said it was going to be hil-ar-ious (meh), continue my obsession with the Office and Pam and Jim, catch the new episode of Lost and worry furiously over Claire, then watch the obligatory hour of Sex and the City that I always get sucked into when I come home.

Gross. I don't ever want to watch that much TV again.

I have wanted to watch the pilot of Pushing Daisies. It sounds great and cute and unique. When I finally watch it, I will let you know what I think.

I watched Once the other night. It was good. A lot of music, but I enjoyed it (see below). The story was simple and beautiful. The shooting and cinematography - this was interesting - it seemed very hand-held home-movie, which oscillated between straining on the eyes and working really well. Overall I think I really liked it. I liked that what was most important was the music and the story, not flashy camera set ups or perfection. Very European - but I have a tendency to try to glorify anything as faintly Italian NeoRealism. In short, if you're like me and are always a little late catching up with the band wagon, it is worth the watch.

So I finally joined MySpace. Friend me!

I'm working with Zoetrope now - for the third time? I've finally submitted my first review. I have to do three more before I can see any that are done for me. So The 4:05/Connections is live on the reading page - if anyone wants to read what I've been bragging about/loving on for the past year or so, that's where you can find it. Love your opinions!

Speaking of writing, I'm leaving the house early(ish) tomorrow and spending as much time away as needed to get some productive writing done. I will let you know how that experiment goes...

The Hill

Walking up the hill tonight
and you have closed your eyes
I wish I didn't have to make
all those mistakes and be wise
Please try to be patient
and know that I'm still learning
I'm sorry that you have to see
the strength inside me burning

Where are you my angel now
don't you see me crying?
And I know that you can't do it all
but you can't say I'm not trying
I'm on my knees in front of him
but he doesn't seem to see me
But all his troubles on his mind
he's looking right through me
And I'm letting myself down
beside this fire in you
And I wish that you could see
that half my troubles too

Looking at you sleeping
I'm with the man I love
I'm sitting here weeping
while the hours pass so slow
And I know that in the morning
I'll have to let you go
And you'll be just a man
once I used to know
And for these past few days
someone I don't recognise
This isn't all my fault
when will you realise

Looking at you leaving
I'm looking for a sign

- Marketa Irglova from Once

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I was over at Zoetrope, just messing around, when I stumbled across a question about loglines that I realized I could help answer. The problem the author was having with the logline, whether they realized it or not, was that the script was a story about endurance, not necessarily goal achievement. I like to write stories about how people endure difficult life situations, so I come up with this problem a lot. How do you write a strong logline when your story is quieter than the average clearly stated goal story? Here's the advice I gave:

I think the hardest thing about this sort of logline is that your characters seem to be *enduring* more than they are chasing some sort of concrete goal. I think the weakest aspect about the various loglines suggested is that the accident, not the characters and how they are affected, is the focal point. Try putting the characters first, then give them some sense of agency and urgency. Someone once advised me to use the word "must" in your logline.

Even if your characters do not have clearly distinguished goals (ie The 4:05 or Collapse), you can still infuse your logline with a sense of agency and urgency. Characters who are doing something under threat. I actually just cleaned up my logline for The 4:05 today because I submitted it to Zoetrope. It went from something like "When a man struggling with extreme paranoia encounters a cynical young woman, their chance meeting brings them both to the life crisis they needed" to "When a chance meeting and failed first date bring a troubled young man and a struggling young woman together, their fight to find real friendship in each other leads them to the darkest places inside themselves." Can't you see the difference? In the second version, there is a sense of the characters being active, "fighting," with an entwined sense of urgency, as the intimacy they need in each other brings them closer to the secrets they have hidden.

That's why "must" works so well as a key word in loglines. It has both agency and urgency. Infuse both of those into your logline, and I guarantee it will be a lot stronger and many times more interesting

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

coconut creme cupcakes

I can't sleep.

I'm lying in bed at home (and by this home I mean my parents' house), listening to Coldplay and Damien Rice and over thinking. I think it's culture shock. Too many people growing up, leaving home and coming home, going on adventures, doing nothing. I stood on the beach yesterday and felt like I was fifteen years old. Today I felt old enough to start thinking about settling down and whispering suggestions about starting a family. I teeter every time I lose my sense of balance. I've had so many perfect moments in the past couple of weeks. Finding out how to show I care about the one I secretly care about, toasting to friends and true love and difficult times around the camp fire, wandering up and down the beach of the boundless lake with the most wonderful people, flying into the City at night so close to the buildings I could practically see the people in Times Square. Finally watching the season two finale of the Office.

And this is a sort of perfect moment, too. It's awkwardly unsettling, this quiet moment when I'm just thinking about life, because despite all the perfect moments, you have to deal with all the imperfect ones as well. And, maybe I'm just a little bit strange, but thinking about these things conjures pictures in my mind, not of my own life but of some other one, someone else's story, and the stories I make up are about me but they're about someone else. I used to think it was a great insult to say that you can see the author in a story, see how they've inserted themselves. I still think there takes a certain amount of craftsmanship to conceal your tracks, but now I believe that the stories with the most heart are often written when they come from the author's true heart, from the experiences and joys and pains held there, the invisible story teller whispering, "Don't you see the truth in this? Don't you feel it yourself?" I believe the reason that I love The 4:05 so much is because I wrote it trying to answer a question I was struggling with at the time and the answer I found there gave me hope. And as I lay here, unable to sleep, thinking about the big questions in my life right now is the same as thinking about the stories I would like to write. They are inexorably tied.

I was watching the director commentary of Walk the Line on the plane today, and writer/director James Mangold talks about how the characters and the actors are just real people, how beautifully the sincerity of the story plays. I've hardly written anything, really. But I think that the stories I will write over the next fifty years will be about real people as well. They will be about Real Me. Maybe, if I spin them with enough craft, you will see how they are about Real You, too.

As my dear H. D. Martin once said, sometimes there is only truth - and there is beauty yet in that.

Monday, May 05, 2008

In the past week I have:

- slept in a bed only once
- seen two black bears
- said good bye
- traveled 2,000+ miles in 30+ hours
- experienced a near perfect day
- caught up on a season and a half of the Office
- was approached in the airport by a guy from a British company looking for engineering majors for interns
- filmed over 3 hours in documentary footage
- been hit by the desire to write fiction again, particularly a novel
- taken over 150 pictures
- finally heard some mitch hedberg and dane cook
- already started watching those syndicated half hour comedy shows I get addicted to at home

... and much more

Friday, May 02, 2008

My Hands are Shaking

My hand are shakin
From carryin this torch
From carryin this torch for you

My lips are bleeding
From kissin you goodbye
From kissin you goodbye every night

My sheets are tearin
From sleepin in too long
From sleepin in too long with you

My hands are shakin
From carryin this torch
From carryin this torch for you

My head is where
It's always been
If only I'd?

My feet can't stand
That ground no more
It seems that I don't care

My hands are shakin
From carryin this torch
From carryin this torch for you

My lips are bleedin
From kissin you goodbye
From kissin you goodbye every night

My heart is poundin
Yes yes yes
My mind just second guess
My love is so
But I am such a mess

My hands are shakin
From carryin this torch
From carryin this torch for you

My lips are bleedin
From kissin you goodbye
From kissin you goodbye
It's all that I do

My sheets are tearin
From sleepin in too long
From sleepin in too long with you

My hands are shakin
From carryin this torch
From carryin this torch for you

- Sondre Lerche from Dan in Real Life